Many students and parents will be looking forward to a return to in person learning beginning Monday, but others may be hesitant to return given the spread of the Omicron variant and prefer to learn virtually from home.
With that, parents and students are required to reply to their schools by 2 p.m. today, Friday, Jan. 14 as to their choice, the Algoma District School Board (ADSB) states.
“In the 2021/22 school year, all school boards were directed to offer a virtual/remote learning option to their students. Given the current landscape, we recognize that some families may want the option of keeping their children home as they gauge the case count and that some students will be required to remain at home due to symptoms and/or isolation. Thus, school boards have been asked to accommodate these short-term requests, to the greatest extent possible, recognizing there may be challenges,” said Lucia Reece, ADSB director of education in an email today.
“Given our current Hybrid Model, ADSB will be permitting students to continue, in the short-term, learning virtually/remotely until Feb. 3 if they wish. Therefore, if this is your preference as of Monday, Jan. 17, please note the following:
- please contact your child’s teacher (by Edsby, phone or email) by 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 14 to indicate whether your child is continuing virtually/remotely
- in our ADSB hybrid model, in-person learners can access virtual/remote learning if symptomatic and/or isolating
- we appreciate virtual/remote students who can utilize personal devices to support learning, as we have a limited number and requests may outnumber our supply, so you will need to reach out to the school principal to determine availability
- your child must have their camera ‘on’ when required, to ensure they are connected and active participants in their classroom community
“As always, ADSB will continue to communicate to our families any updates, new information or changes to these measures as they are made available.”
As far as COVID safety measures are concerned, Reece said “as reported by the Minister of Education on Jan. 12, an increased number of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) will be coming and will be distributed to schools for use by our families. These are tests which can be performed at home. Over the past several years, Algoma District School Board has purchased and installed HEPA filters so that high-priority areas, such as special-needs classrooms, kindergarten classrooms, and music rooms, already have them in place. ADSB is expecting an additional shipment of 28 more HEPA filters to add to our complement.”
“ADSB continues to provide required PPE to our staff, including medical masks, eye protection and other PPE based on their specific role/job functions (for example, gloves, gowns). Algoma District School Board has received all shipments of non-fitted N95 masks from the Ministry. These have been distributed to our schools for staff to have prior to the return to in-person learning on Jan. 17 and for our staff who are working in the special education classes that are operating.”
With the spread of the Omicron variant, many workplaces (including health care facilities such as Sault Area Hospital) have been affected by absenteeism due to staff who have tested positive for COVID or are isolating due to contact with a known case.
It is not improbable that the education sector will experience absenteeism among teachers.
“All Ontarians have been advised that all sectors must plan for the likelihood of much higher levels of absenteeism in the coming weeks and the education sector is not immune to this reality. ADSB will make every effort to continue in-person learning, wherever possible, however, circumstances may require that some classes or schools move to full online learning due to staff shortages or supervision challenges. It is possible that, due to staff shortages, parents may receive short notice, before the school day or during the school day, that classes will have to move to online,” the ADSB stated.
“ADSB appreciates parent/guardian’s ongoing patience and understanding when such a decision might need to be made,” Reece said.
“Algoma District School Board is pleased and ready to welcome students back to in-person learning on Monday Jan. 17 and we have communicated specific information to our families to address overall details around return to class.”
This information can be found at the board’s website.
Staff shortages are a possibility, the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board (H-SCDSB) states.
“While we are hopeful that we will not encounter this challenge because of the many strategies we have in place, much will depend upon how healthy everyone stays. The Omicron variant is so widespread and the requirements for individuals who are infected and/or living with symptomatic individuals to isolate for several days are such that staff shortages could indeed occur. We will need to address each situation individually, in part because a staff shortage in a community such as Chapleau might need to be addressed differently than one in Sault Ste. Marie, where we have more access to staff that can be redeployed,” said Rose Burton Spohn, H-SCDSB director of education in an email.
“In terms of our high school students, we certainly are anticipating that they will be eager to return to in-person learning to participate in classes with their peers. For those who are not well enough to return to school on Monday and/or for those who perhaps might feel anxious about returning to school in person, we invite them to contact St. Mary’s College to make arrangements for alternative learning. This may involve learning via the virtual learning environment.”
“Since there is so much uncertainty about our health situation right now, our board has decided to extend the deadline for families to transition to or from virtual learning to 12 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24,” Burton Spohn said.
H-SCDSB, as reported earlier, indicated it has masks and HEPA filters in place.
Information can be found on the Huron-Superior board's website.